TITLE: Language, Style, and Life AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: June 09, 2011 6:17 PM DESC: ----- BODY: I should probably apologize for the florid prose in this recent post. It was written under the influence of "Manhood for Amateurs", Michael Chabon's book of essays on life, which I was reading at the time. Chabon is a novelist known for his evocative prose, and the language of "Manhood" captivated me. However, such style and vocabulary are perhaps best left to masters like Chabon. In the hands of amateur writers such as me, they pale in comparison. I am often influenced as a writer by what I've been reading lately. There is something about the rhythm of some authors' words and sentences that vibrates in my mind and finds its way into my own words and sentences. Recognizing this tendency in myself, I often prepare for a bout of writing by reading a particular writer. For example, when I set out to write software patterns, I like to prime my brain by reading Kent Beck's Smalltalk Best Practice Patterns, for its spare, clean, readable style. I do the same when I code, sometimes. Browsing the current code base gets my mind ready to write new code and to refactor. Whenever I used to start a new Smalltalk project, I would browse the image to put myself in a Smalltalk frame of mind. These days, I'll do the same with Ruby -- github is full of projects I admire by programmers whose work I respect. I can strongly recommend Chabon's book. It gave me as much life as any book I've read in a long while. Men will find themselves on every page of "Manhood". American men of a certain age will recognize and appreciate its cultural allusions even more. Women will find a bit of insight into the minds of the men in their lives, and receive confirmation from one particularly honest man that, most of the time, we don't have a clue what we are doing. Is there anything in "Manhood" specifically for programmers and other computer types? No, though there are a couple of references to computers, including this one in the essay "Art of Cake":
Cooking satisfies the part of me that enjoys struggling for days to transfer an out-of-print vinyl record by Klaatu to digital format, screwing with scratch filters and noise reducers, only to have the burn fail every time at the very same track.
I love to cook in much the way Chabon describes, but I must admit that I've never had quite the drive to tinker with settings, configuration files, and boot sectors that my Linux friends seem to have. Cooking feels this need need better for me that installing the latest distribution of my operating system. My drive with computers has always been to create things with programs, and in that regard I was most at home in "Manhood" when he talked about writing. Chabon does have an essay in the closing section of the book that echoes my observation that there is no normal, though his essay explores what it means for daily life to be normal. I usually see connections of this sort to my life, and readers of this blog won't be surprised if I write a post soon about how the truths of life that Chabon explores find themselves residing in the mind of this programmer and teacher. One note in closing: Good Boy that I am, I must tell you that Chabon uses language I would never use, and he occasionally discusses frankly, though briefly, drug usage and sex. Fortunately, as I grew up, I learned that I could read about things I would never say or do, and benefit from the experience. -----